Cover of Soul Jacker by Michael John Grist

Michael John Grist’s Soul Jacker is easily one of the most unusual and thought-provoking cyberpunk novels out there. This book is up there with the classics of the genre in terms of style, narrative voice, and introduction of new concepts.

Grist has built a world that is strange and fascinating both inside and out: memories are injectable, mind bombs can disrupt and destroy thousands of minds without leaving a physical trace, and we’ve honed hacking the human mind down to a fine (if dangerous) art.

Ritry Goligh is one such hacker, or Soul Jacker, a former marine left adrift by the end of the war he was created for. He’s a hard individual who’s made a lot of sacrifices in order to survive, but he isn’t a bad guy. Despite picking up the pieces of a psyche shattered by trauma multiple times throughout his life, he never quite succumbs to the darkness. I found myself really liking that about him. He’s a hero, if nothing else than because he refused to become a monster like those that surrounded him. In an ugly world, refusing to give in to cruelty is an act of rebellion.

Grist gives the reader plenty of demons to hate, though, (or cheer for, if that’s your thing.) This is a narrative that pulls no punches, and gory is an understatement for much of the action. We plumb the depths of a world ravaged by fuel wars and rising sea levels, as well as the depths of Ritry’s oft-broken-and-rehealed mind– a labyrinthine maze of hidden memories and missing pieces, hidden behind steel walls of protective scar tissue and stalked by monsters. And then of course there are the traps laid by the enigmatic character known as Mr. Ruin.

Soul Jacker is a wilder ride than I ever expected when I picked it up, full of dizzying highs and sickening lows that I found oddly satisfying. This is a novel that will thrill you, horrify you, and make you think about where we’re going. I loved it, and I think you will too.

Sound interesting? Soul Jacker is available on Amazon in ebook and paperback. I highly recommend it!

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Cover of Legacy of Pandora: Shan Takhu Legacy: Book One by Eric Michael Craig

Set in a future where Earth has become all but uninhabitable and human colonization has extended throughout the inner Solar System, Legacy of Pandora follows two separate storylines. Out in the cold dark of the Neptune L-4 Trojan Cluster, the ice harvesting research vessel Jakob Waltz is about to run into serious trouble. Back home in the governing Council of the Human Union, FleetCartel Chancellor Katryna Roja is just beginning to uncover a twisted web of corruption, resource theft, and murder.

Continue reading “Review: Legacy of Pandora”

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I discovered a ton of new favorite authors this year!

Those who know me know that I enjoy a wide range of genres. I’m intrigued by writing that’s unique: new concepts, subversions of expectations, genre blending. Interestingly enough, most of the books that fit my preferences this year came from independent authors.

This list covers a range of genres. Comparing most of these books to each other would be impossible, so they’re organized alphabetically by title instead of numerically. If you’d like to read more, each heading links to my review of that book.

Without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2018.

Continue reading “Favorite Reads of 2018”

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Cover of Stormhaven Rising by Eric Michael Craig

In the wake of the discovery of an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, the United States government scrambles to contain the news before it can spark a panic– but some secrets are too big to keep. Soon they aren’t the only ones rushing to devise countermeasures.

Their most viable competitors are the Chinese, and a global megacorporation to end all megacorporations: Stormhaven, founded and run by uber wealthy reclusive genius Colton Taylor. (Think Elon Musk, but considerably more altruistic and an all-around decent human being.)

Set in a near future where the US Department of Defense and NASA have only become more encumbered by bureaucratic gridlock (and in NASA’s case, insufficient funding,) private sector technologies have evolved leaps and bounds beyond that of the public sector. As such, Taylor’s Stormhaven may be the only real hope Earth has. There’s just one problem: private spaceflight is strictly forbidden, not just in the US, but on a global scale. In light of the strained political climate of impending doom, the last thing the US government wants to do is grant Stormhaven permission to reach space.

The tense and at times disastrous narrative that evolves from this situation is equal parts grim and inspiring. Stormhaven Rising represents an interesting blend of genres: part political thriller, part hard scifi, and part impending disaster. Together they make for a fun and fascinating read.

Continue reading “Review: Stormhaven Rising”

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Cover of Save Our Souls by Leighton Dean

Today on the author blog, Leland Lydecker reviews the second novel by author Leighton Dean.

The aptly-named Save Our Souls follows pilot and Captain’s son, Ford, and his family, the crew of the freighter Jian Seng, as they fight to survive in the face of an unholy trinity of catastrophes. The seemingly lifeless ship that barreled into their craft is only the first salvo of a universe that seems intent on eliminating the crew of the Jian Seng in the most unpleasant ways possible.

Continue reading “Review: Save Our Souls”

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 Welcome to the Madhouse: a Medical Space Station Thriller by S.E. Sasaki

Welcome to the Madhouse chronicles the adventures of Dr. Grace Lord as she begins her residency aboard the medical space station Nelson Mandela. Plenty of challenges are in store, from eccentric surgeons to a dangerously manipulative psychiatrist to an alien super-virus, but Dr. Lord is not entirely on her own: she soon finds an unlikely ally in Bud, an android gifted with artificial intelligence.

In fact, Bud is more than just sentient: he feels human emotion. And from the moment he lays optical sensors on the extremely talented, smart, and beautiful Dr. Grace Lord, he falls madly in love with her.

Continue reading “Review: Welcome to the Madhouse”

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 Cover of Darrell B. Nelson's The Genocide Game.

This week on the author blog, Leland Lydecker reviews The Genocide Game. A megalomaniac billionaire with an automation fetish plots to wipe out ninety-eight percent of the world’s population, and it falls to Stan– pick-up artist guru and self-proclaimed word-nerd– to save the world.

To be more accurate, Stan bumps into Raven, a scientist on the run from her job in the billionaire’s R&D lab, and offers to help her. Pretty soon they’re both on the run from Ferguson’s comically inept goons, racing to reveal the existence of a genetically engineered super-virus before Ferguson can unleash it on the world.

Although it sounds like a cool premise, The Genocide Game has some unfortunately fatal flaws. Let’s start with Stan.

Continue reading “Darrell B. Nelson’s The Genocide Game”

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Today on the author blog, Leland Lydecker reviews Trackers: A Post-Apocalyptic Survival Series by Nicholas Sansbury Smith.
Warning: contains spoilers.

As the title suggests, the Trackers series chronicles the struggles of the survivors of an apocalyptic event. That event is the detonation of several high-altitude EMPs over the contiguous United States. The attack is ostensibly retaliation for an ill-conceived mission which liberated the granddaughter of a US Senator from a North Korean prison camp.

Trackers begins with the inciting raid, then cuts to the day of the EMP strike. In regards to the science of the attack and how it might realistically be carried out, Sansbury Smith did his homework. Trackers contains one of the more believable end-of-the-world scenarios I’ve read.

The meat of the story concerns a gruesome murder mystery playing out at the same time as the attack and its aftermath. Compared to the stagnant fare of “the world is screwed and we’re trying to stay alive” that dominates the Post-Apocalyptic genre, this premise comes across as fresh and interesting. The rest of the novel, sadly, is more standard post-apocalyptic fare.

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